MANILA (Reuters) - Pope Francis waded into the global debate on climate change and the environment on Sunday, saying in the text of a speech that man was destroying nature and betraying God's calling to be stewards of creation.
Francis offered his thoughts about the environment and climate change for the second time in four days at a rally with young people at a Manila university on the last full day of a week-long Asian tour that has taken him to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
He did not read all of a speech prepared for delivery at the university, improvising after he was moved by the story of an abandoned girl. When he does this, the Vatican says the prepared text is official.
"As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we
betray that noble calling," he said in the text.
Another line he read to the crowd noted that "this country, more than many others, is likely to be seriously affected by climate change".
His comments came a day after he made a dramatic visit to the central city of Tacloban, ground zero of Typhoon Haiyan, which killed at least 6,300 people, left a million homeless and displaced 4 million more when it struck in November 2013.
In Tacloban, Francis wore a transparent poncho to protect him from strong wind and driving rain and had to cut short his visit by four hours to get out of the way of a tropical storm.
"Respect for the environment means more than simply using cleaner products or recycling what we use. These are important aspects, but not enough," he said in the written speech.
"We need to see, with the eyes of faith, the beauty of God’s saving plan, the link between the natural environment and the dignity of the human person," it said.
Sri Lanka is among the Asian countries experts say will see sea level rises likely to displace people and adversely affect tourism and fisheries.
Speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him to Manila on Thursday, Francis said he believed that man was primarily responsible for climate change and that he hoped the U.N. climate meeting in Paris in November would take a courageous stand to protect the environment.
"I don't know if it is all (man's fault) but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps nature in the face," he said.
Those words were his clearest to date on climate change, which has sparked worldwide debate and even divided conservative and liberal Catholics, particularly in the United States, on whether it is man-made.
The Pope told reporters that his long-awaited encyclical on the environment was almost finished and that he hoped it would be published in June, ahead of the U.N. meeting in Paris.
Last month in Peru, about 190 nations agreed on the building blocks of a global deal to combat climate change amid warnings that far tougher action would be needed to limit increases in global temperatures.
Under the deal reached in Lima, governments will submit national plans for reining in greenhouse gas emissions by an informal deadline of March 31 to form the basis of a global agreement due at the Paris summit. Francis faulted the Peru conference for not doing enough about climate change.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Paul Tait